My dream job had begun to unravel as the organisation I worked for as a senior executive went through an organisational restructure. I was working long hours, dealing with some difficult issues, what little exercise I did was getting pushed to the back burner and my diet seemed to largely consist of Board room sandwiches and take away. My weight climbed up over the 80kg mark for the first time ever which on a 162cm frame was not a good look! I was going to bed exhausted, sleeping badly and waking up just as exhausted. In short I was stressed, overweight and miserable.
My father had died earlier in the year and in retrospect I was still dealing with his loss - I simply hadn't acknowledged my need to grieve. I was also frustrated because that five minutes I grabbed on a Saturday afternoon to write was just not enough time to produce anything of any worth. So add 'creatively stifled' to the mixing pot and I was going nowhere fast.
You know things aren't going right when you feel nauseous just driving into the car park in the morning and you tear up just looking at a white board!
Something had to be done or I was heading for the ubiquitous "burnout". Early in September I attended a conference at which the motivational speaker was Matt Church. Every conference has a motivational speaker these days but Matt Church brought a different perspective. He talked about the chemistry of the body and how it affects your working life. He described "Adrenalin Junkies" and as he spoke I could hear the voice in my head..."He's talking about you". To paraphrase him, our bodies give us effectively 3 hours of adrenalin a day and if you are an adrenalin junkie (and I ticked all the boxes), you've burnt it off by 11am. After that cortisol kicks in which, while giving you the same energy level, has the physical effect of thickening the blood. When you stop, "it's like being hit by a Mack truck"...it affects your sleep, causes weight gain...etc.
How to deal with the problem? Seratonin - it takes at least 3 weeks to begin to replace your seratonin levels. I couldn't change the work situation but I could change me - diet and exercise needed serious re-evaluation. So I signed up to Michelle Bridges 12WBT program. This is not a quick fix weight loss program; it is careful eating and a minimum of 6 days of exercise. I began to use the gym at work in a quiet hour in the afternoon if I could grab one, I changed into my exercise gear before I left work thus ensuring I made it to my Step Into Life classes or simply worked on Michelle's "Learning to Run" Program.
Then in November my employer and I parted ways. It was one of those unpleasant Friday afternoon discussions that come from left field. Yes, I was devastated but at the same time exhilarated. I felt as if I had been set free. As a measure of how stressed I had been, it took at least two months to begin to feel as if I had achieved some sort of equilibrium again. In that time I had lost 8kg and I was exercising every day. In May this year I ran my first 5km "Fun Run" (not two words I have ever put together!) in 37 minutes.
I now write full time. I sit at a desk from 9 to 5 talking to imaginary people, which after my recent work experience, certainly beats talking to real ones! But you have to be fit to write. It is an occupation that demands as much attention to your physical well being as any other job. I'm at an age where bits of me are starting to wear out but that is all the more reason to exercise.
Exercise is now a vital part of my life, if I miss a day then I know it. I still need to lose more weight but at least that is not down to Board room sandwiches any more! The fact is I like a glass of wine in the evening and good food and I'm at an age where the metabolism doesn't function quite the way it used to but at least I don't FEEL overweight any more.
So where am I going with this? Some advice for being "Fit to Write"
- Make exercise part of your day - whether it is going for a walk, yoga or anything. Start setting yourself goals. You do it with your writing...do it with exercise. "Today I will walk one street further" or (as happened to me) "In May I will participate in a Fun Run". It is easy for me to say this and I can hear the excuses (I know them all...believe me) but you can do it. Not exercising is a habit. It takes 21 days to make a new habit. If I could do it, you can too.
- Watch your diet. I know chocolate is a compulsory part of any writer's life, but make it a treat, not a part of the daily food group.
- Get up out of that chair at least once ever hour and do something different for 5 minutes.
I know many of you are not just writing, but also balancing employment and families. Nothing changes what I've said above. I did it...you can too! When I started running, I could barely make one minute before feeling as I was about to have a coronary, now I can run 3kms without stopping (OK...I will never be a marathon runner but this is about you...not what others can do!).
In summary: Listen to your body, cultivate a "whole of body awareness" and set yourself goals, even if they are "baby steps". Striving to achieve a goal is better than just sitting back and letting life happen to you.
Any more tips to allow us to be "Fit to Write"?
|Alison after the Run for Kids - still smiling!|
(PS Another great reference that resonated with me is the "Strong Women Stay Young" concept. See the website at http://www.strongwomen.com/ )